Jesus' Blood, Michelangelo, Windmills, & More Beer

Trip Start Sep 20, 2009
Trip End Oct 07, 2009

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Flag of Belgium  , West Flanders,
Friday, September 25, 2009

She Said:

We arrived in Bruges and immediately began noticing scenes from the movie, In Bruges. The town was everything I expected: medieval-looking, quaint with amazing architecture, flower boxes in the windows, and cobblestone streets.  This was a nice contrast to Brussels, which was more like a big city.

We walked from the train station to the first place on our list to find lodging. This was described as a "dollhouse", which seemed fitting given its appearance, but was only constructed with one bathroom in the whole place and had one shared room for the four of us.  As much as I love my in-laws, this did not seem like the ideal place for us.  We kept walking to the main square, and although I protested the dollhouse and felt high maintenance, we ended up finding a much better place, closer to the main square, with the nicest hotel owners in all of Belgium it seemed.

We stopped in a supermarket to try and find some gluten free options for breakfast, since the basket of bread we'd received on the days prior was leaving me hungry.  We found what appeared to be rice cakes and called it a day.

While everyone else had a Belgium beer to begin the tour of Bruges, I explored some wines.  Have I mentioned how badly I wanted a beer?  We walked down an old canal and found a local pub, sat at a cozy wooden table with big, heavy chairs, and welcomed ourselves to Bruges properly.  After dinner and some more exploration, we picked up some beverages (I found a cider!) and sat under the lights of the Belfry clock tower as a light drizzle of rain began.

The next day, we walked one of Chad’s infamous pre-planned walking tours of the city. This began with an explanation of the main squares, which includes buildings dating back to the 1300s! There’s always a church or basilica in the tour, and this one was famous for a display of the blood of Christ.  After the 360 degree building identification, we began our ascent up the Belfry, which included approximately 366 stairs to the top.  This provided us amazing panoramic views of Bruges.  Next stop, another church, but this one interestingly displayed a Michelangelo statue, which was a rare treat, as it is said to be the only Michelangelo to leave Italy in his time. 

The final stop was Bruges’ own brewery, inclusive of a tour and a free tasting.  After a long day of walking and touring, I was ready to taste the beverage of the country.  I limited myself to half a beer, which was very worth whatever consequences came my way as a result.

That night during our last dinner in Belgium, where of course we shared yet another bucket of mussels, we were entertained by a high school band for the entirety of the meal.

On the day we were to depart to Paris, we did some quick touring in the morning before our train.  We tried to go and see the blood of Jesus on display at the church, but were too late.  So instead, we trekked out to see some old windmills no longer in use, and finally headed for the train to Paris. 

He Said:

Within a few minutes I realized that Bruges (or Brugge in Flemish; “bridges” in English) was going to be one of those cities where it’s best to just keep your camera out of its case.  I sort of had the feeling that was going to happen because of all the great scenery in the film In Bruges, and I wasn’t disappointed.

What really became evident, though, is that, aside from an old winch of a lady who didn’t want me taking pictures of her cheese and wanted to close 45 minutes before her posted hours of operation, everyone in Bruges is so friendly and helpful you have a hard time believing they are real – especially our hotel proprietors.  They were a younger couple – he was Flemish, and she was of Asian descent – and they even offered to go out to find gluten free products for Alli.  It was almost like a weird sci fi movie, and I think all of us were completely amazed at the friendly nature of the Flemish people.  This got me to thinking about the nature of Belgium as a whole.

Bruges is only a short train ride north from the capital of Brussels, but it’s almost like going to another country.  The architecture is different, the people are different, and the language is different.  Belgium is interesting because it represents not just the convergence of two languages – Flemish and French – but also two different types of languages – Germanic and Romantic.  I think language, and thus the root of language, has a definite affect on the personality of its peoples.  So with the French speakers there is a more relaxed, joie de vivre style and with the Flemish there is a more subdued, quiet nature.  With our experiences, both were incredibly accommodating, friendly, and warm peoples with very different styles.

After we settled in, the following day we commenced the walking tour of the town’s major squares, churches, statues, markets, viewpoints, and yes, breweries.  De Halve Maan was small and quaint with a microbrew type production, a very funny and informative tour guide who like the De Halve Maan product as much as anyone (“I’m a funny tour guide but a serious drinker,” she said.), and a rooftop deck overlooking production that was truly “beer with a view.” to borrow a phrase.  The beer was tasty, too.

We finished off the day with our last Belgian dinner, more varieties of Belgian beers, all put to a soundtrack provided by a Belgian high school band just off the main square.  They played all kinds of tunes, but we all perked up for things to come when they played a tune about the Hofbrau Haus.

But first, back to Paris, France baby!

Pam and Glenn Said:

We enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day walking and floating around this “coastal” city, as the locals call it.  The Belgians have their wind power down pat.  We saw the new high tech ones as well as the ones used years ago.  They also seem a little more humble about their beer.  They already know they have the best so they don’t seem to boast about it.  They only drink it! But no kidding, the Belgian beer is wonderful and so are the waffles.
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